Monday, February 27, 2006

Lewis W. Peters Album and 1868 CPRR Locomotive Roster

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Railroad Spike Heads, lettering, lengths

From: "michael pettus"

Do you have a list of what the different letters on various types of spikes mean?

Sacramento Flooding

From: "Wendell Huffman"

In rlhsgroup, "cnefan" wrote:

For the past couple of months or so, the Sacramento Bee newspaper has been harping on the fact that the City of Sacramento and quite a bit of the surrounding area appears to be quite vulnerable to possible flooding from both the American River and the Sacramento River. ... What I would like to know is what, if any, contingency plan is in place by the California State Railroad Museum to get their's and the R&LHS's vast collection of historical material out of the basement of its library building before the next possible deluge hits the area?

That is a good question, but one I will avoid simply because I don't know. I do know, however, a bit of the history of the Sacramento area levees and Sacramento's geography (thanks to the connection between those and the railroad).

Front street and I street, and the entire railroad yard to the north are essentially the level of the top of the levee in that area. I cannot imagine the levees at those points are at all vulnerable as they are essentially blocks wide. South of I street and east of Front the streets themselves are at levee level, though the actual grade of the blocks surounded by those streets are over eight feet below street/levee grade – which is close to the original grade of the city in that area. Those blocks are indeed sinks, without natural drainage, and which might indeed fill up with water should a flood overtop a levee. But again, because of the width of the Front Street levee and the massive levee-grade earthwork of the railroad yard to the north, a break at those points is unlikely.

South of R on Front the Sacramento levee becomes just a levee, though surmounted with a railroad track. Many of the streets south of R street actually drop down to the general level of the city's original grade at that point. This is very apparent if you drive south on Front Street. South of R street there is a noticable drop.

East of about 12th street the earthwork of the railroad yard narrows and the north levee becomes just that – a levee; though surmounted with a railroad track. If there is any vulnerablity in the levees protecting the old part of Sacramento (say from Front to 65th, or south to Broadway, it would be in the old north and east levee (which support the SP tracks from the railyard to Elvas and Brighton, and south of R street). Frankly, it seems to me that while any break in levees in those areas might flood a good portion of Sacramento (generally along the McKinley Park-Sutter's Fort-South Side Park channel of the old Burn's Slough), I really doubt flood levels would ever rise enough to flood back into the northwest corner of the old city in the "Old Sacramento" district. Though there might be local flooding due to rainwater accumulation in those blocks surounded by the streets raised to levee level. However, because the railroad is on that levee, and was widened and maintained by them, it is a significant earthwork and is probably the strongest levee in the area.

My reason for doubting a flood would ever back up into the old part of town is simply that the waters would drain off to the south and back into the Sacramento River below the city. This was always the traditional flooding pattern: a levee break in the area near what is now Elvas, flooding south through the city along the Burn's Slough. The general disaster of the 1861-62 flood was caused by the fact that the city fathers had allowed the Sacramento Valley Railroad to fill in their trestle crossing of Burns Slough (between 17th and 21st Street). When the levee broke, the waters raced down Burn's Slough until the hit the railroad's new embankment, and backed up into the city. The R street levee – as it came to be called – was opened up in four places – where city streets actually passed under the railroad, and after 1900 the R street levee was actually removed and the railroad lowered to street level.

East of Sacramento – east of the so called east levee – there is some vulnerability to flooding. There never was much of a levee along the south side of the American River. Suburban development there (River Park, the college, and College Park) began with the erection of Folsom dam (the "high dam" – there was an earlier dam dating to the 1880s) . And, just as with the floods of 1861-62, the railroad east of Sacramento has the potential to make things bad.

To give some indication of grade, the railroad's official elevation at Sacramento station is 35 feet. Going east along the old SVRR (Folsom-Placerville branch) the grade ascends to 54 feet at Brighton Jucntion (more-or-less 65th and Folsom Blvd), but then goes down again. At Ramona (Power Inn Road) is is down to 49 feet; by Perkins it up to 52 feet, then another half mile back down to 48 feet, and isn't back up to 60 feet until Mayhew Road. This railroad grade would hold water in the College Park area and cause significant flood damage, perhaps clear around into River Park and the college, but it would spill over the railroad in the Power Inn Road area well before it flooded west into Sacramento. This is what it did in 1907 – when the railroad between Perkins and Manlove was washed out. Ironically, such a flood would fill in those massive gravel pits between the railroad and 14th Avenue and between Watt and 65th – the pits from which much of the material came which was used to fill in the streets in the old part of town, raising them to the grade of the levee.

While Folsom dam has the potential to prevent a flood along the American River, things can go wrong. I recall when Hell Hole dam on the Rubicon broke many years ago. Folsom began discharging at emergency levels to make room in its reservor for the expected influx. As a result, the American River below Folsom was lapping the top of the levee and acrually spilled over in some areas.

There was a plan generated many years ago to dig a channel from the American River south west to the Sacramento River below Freeport – genrally along the south side of the old Freeport Railroad grade. This would have served the same protection from the flooding American as the Yolo Bypass serves to protect Sacramento city from a flooding Sacramento River. Folsom Dam eliminated the need for this.

Probably the greatest potential problem is north of Sacramento, between the Sacramento, American, and Bear rivers. The city-county was happy to have the developers move in, but the only protection is Folsom dam. The levees which protected those areas are no doubt untrustworthy – and now the people who bought into those developments are expecting the rest of us to protect them. But flooding there would not effect the old part of the city.

While the basement at CSRM might fill up with accumulated rain water should the power be out and the pumps inoperable, it is very unlikely that river flood waters would ever back up across the railroad yard or I street to fill in that basement. I hope CSRM has their own adequate sump pump and the generator to run it.

(Many years ago my father was a senior engineer with the California Department of Water Resources. As such, he was assigned a mile of levee to monitor and supervise during flood emergencies. Every time it rained hard and the rivers backed up, he always wondered how his levee was doing. Seems that in the process of bureaucracy, they just never got around to telling him just where his mile of levee was located!)


[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]

Saturday, February 25, 2006

84 Charing Cross Road

Friday, February 24, 2006

RR construction photographs Sacramento River canyon from Redding to Yreka

From: "Angel Gomez"

Does anyone know of the location of any photos or other documents relating to the construction of the railroad up the Sacramento River canyon (from Redding to Yreka) in the mid-1880s?

Did the Southern Pacific itself maintain any historical photos in SF or some other location?

—Angel Gomez

WW II Railway Operating Battalions

From: "Arnim Gerstenmeier"
Re: Southern Pacific - 715th Railway Operating Battalion - 1943-1945

A friend of mine is researching her dad's WW II career. He was employed by the Southern Pacific RR and served with the 715th Railway Operating Battalion in North Africa and Italy. Was the Southern Pacific a sponsor of that unit also?

Where do you suggest we look for information? After the war, he returned to the Southern Pacific and worked for that line (California) until his death.



Courtesy of an anonymous donor.

Golden spike gift

From:"Rick Lee Creations"

I designed a golden spike gift with the two trains meeting. I am a wholesaler and if interested please contact me. Some of my other work.

Rick Lee

Golden spike gift with the two trains meeting by Rick Lee Creations.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Huntington Hopkins Hardware, San Francisco Store

From: "Larry Mullaly"

Would anyone know when the Huntington Hopkins Hardware Company opened its store/office in San Francisco? I believe this was in the late 1860s.

—Larry Mullaly

Monday, February 20, 2006

CPRR wood coach in Calistoga, California


Was wondering if any one had information, history, etc. on a very old CPRR wood coach located in Calistoga, California at the old Southern Pacfic Company depot.


Station Plats

From: "Tom Macaulay"

How can I get a list of station plats in the Sierra, and how can I get copies of specific plats? Also, how do I find out if there are photos of the stations?

—Tom, Reno.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Chinese in Texas

From: "Mel Brown"

Greetings from Texas and a kindred spirit, mostly. I too am fascinated by the history of railroad construction but in a narrower way than yourself. My focus has been on the Chinese who helped build the SPRR thru the great southwestern deserts into Texas in the early 1880s. Last year I published the definitive history of the Chinese in Texas, thus far, and naturally told the railroad story.

I've walked their camp sites in far West Texas and others near Langtry close to where the East and West bound lines connected in Jan. 1882 by the Pecos R. Your images from the Nevada region are very enjoyable and familiar in some ways for the relics still lying about. I'm guessing that the pile of stones you show was a hearth used for cooking as they resemble those in Texas. The attached photo shows archaeologists surveying a large camp ground near Sierra Blanca and each man is standing at a hearth and amidst many others. The other is a wok and its lid left behind in a camp near Langtry long ago.

Thank you for the terrific website and all the hard work that you've put in to document this history. I may get the opportunity to help create a museum exhibit depicting a Chinese railroad crew's camp site so was thrilled by the great photo's you've posted. Another page connected like yours to the CPRR pages of all the fine ceramics found along the way in Nv. is spectacular too. It always amazes me to find so much information on the World Wide Web when looking for items of interest. Keep up the good work ...

—Mel Brown, author of Chinese Heart of Texas, The San Antonio Community 1875-1975

Chinese Camp near Sierra Blanca, Texas

Chinese Wok near Langtry, Texas

Friday, February 17, 2006

Pullman Palace Cars - Palmyra

From: "Night Audit"

I am interested in obtaining information (blue-prints, photographs, etc.) relating to the Pullman Palace Car "Palmyra." Would you be able to guide me in the right direction? Also, which railroad museum contains the most, or the best of the Pullman cars from the 1870s?  

David Escobar

Coroners jury inquest, Theo. D. Judah, Foreman

From: "Chris Graves"

Hidden for 148 years in a sealed trunk in Folsom, Calif., this document is one page of a multi-page Folsom City Court coroners jury finding.

Insofar as this is a multi-page finding, I have elected to copy only the final findings; the pages preceeding this page refer to Theodore D. Judah as Jury Foreman. Without getting too graphic, a woman's body was found in the City Limits, identified, and, following California law, a coroners inquest was held.

This document may put to rest some of the comments regarding "Crazy Judah," as the other eight members of the jury surely would not have elected Mr. Judah as Foreman had he been solely fixed on the fortunes of the Pacific Railroad.

The original document is safely under lock and key, someday some other person may wish to look at it, and wonder at the life Theodore D. Judah lived.

—G J Chris Graves, NewCastle, Cal.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Weight of Rail

Do you have ... the total weight of the rails used by the CPRR in initial construction?

Another patent question


Have you ever found an index by patent holder?


Saturday, February 11, 2006

CP Oil Fuel


Central Pacific Oil Fuel

From Railroad Gazette, Nov. 27, 1885, p 759

Liquid fuel in California.

Experiments are being made by the Central Pacific Railroad Co. with petroleum as fuel on some of their steamboats. On the freight steamer "Thoroughfare," plying between Oakland and San Francisco, the saving in cost of fuel is 44 per cent., amounting to $1,400 per month. Four firemen are dispensed with, effecting a further saving of $240 per month. On the “Solono,” the biggest ferry-boat in the world, the saving is only 17 per cent. The oil costs $1.70 per 40-gallon barrel or about 4 cents per gallon. Coal costs $7 per ton, and is estimated to be equal to 100 gallons of oil costing $4.25. Other ferryboats at San Francisco are being altered to burn oil. The amount of petroleum obtained from California has steadily been increasing for the past five years. In 1879, 19,858 barrels were produced, and in 1884 more than 100,000 barrels, thus quadrupling the yield in the space of five years. California now ranks third among the petroleum producing states: New York is second, and West Virginia fourth.

Friday, February 10, 2006

1870 Boxcars

From: "Chris Graves"

How many boxcars were owned by the CPRR in January, 1870?


—G J Chris Graves

Transcontinental Railroad Historic Landmarks for other States

From: "Stan Lehman" /

Do you have any information concerning Historical Landmarks on the UP railroad between North Platt and Omaha? Any help would be appreciated.

Stanley E. Lehman

"Outstanding leaders go out of the way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it's amazing what they can accomplish." —Sam Walton

Monday, February 06, 2006

Cost to build the Union Pacific Railroad

From: What was the total cost to build the Union Pacific Railroad?

Nevada Coal

From: "Sam Limerick"

I am a contract geographer/geologist for the US Dept of Energy and a geography grad student at University of Nevada-Reno. In the process of making some maps showing the distribution of coal occurrences in NV, I came across an undocumented report which stated, "Ever since the 1860's, the Central Pacific RR had a standing offer for anyone who discovered a commercial-grade deposit of coal in Nevada. The railroad had no coal for it's engines closer than Wyoming and badly needed a substitute for the high-priced eastern product." The implication was that this offered reward sparked an intense (but unsuccessful) search for coal in NV during the late 1800's.

Do you know of any supporting evidence for this claim? I am putting together a poster on NV coal, and I would love to include some historical aspects related to the railroad.

Thanks for any help you can lend,

—Sam Limerick, Reno, NV

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Traveling conditions/rail lines going to or near Riverside CA in mid 1880's

From: "Janice Covel"

Mr. Bill Anderson (Railway Museum in Folsom) suggested that I contact you for information re: railroad traveling conditions in the mid 1880s and the trains that ran from Galesburg, Illinois to (or near) Riverside, Ca. I am writing about the life of Eugenia Fuller, a long-time teacher and administrator in Riverside, who arrived there 1885. She was a native of North Henderson-Galesburg and was a teacher and administrator there before traveling to California. I cannot do an authentic biography because there are many gaps of information about her life. How she got from Galesburg to Riverside by train is one of them . I need to know what lines were running at that time. At this point, I believe that she arrived in Colton, CA and traveled to Riverside by stage or buggy. Are there any early historical records of travelers' names and their destinations?

I am currently in the Sacramento/Elk Grove area. I have a second wind about finishing this book and will really appreciate any help you can give me.

—Janice Covel

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cape Horn Slope

From: "Jack Duncan"

[The slope at] Cape Horn ... is ... approximately 45 degrees. My measurements at 18 locations along the 1,000 foot construction zone varied from 28 degrees to 51 degrees. These are slopes at right angles to the tracks. The slopes below the tracks are considerably steeper. For instance, I estimate the slope at the ladder in Figures 61 and 62 in my book to be about 60 degrees. That being below the tracks, only the retaining wall masons had to contend with that slope. That is too steep to work on without a ladder or a rope but no need for a basket or bosun's chair.

Mentioning the 38 degrees talus slope below ... may lead [people] to think that the slope below is 38 degrees. That is far from the truth. Shortly below the work site the slope increases to 60 degrees and 75 degrees and maybe steeper for a short distance. Below that steeper region, the slope "flattens out" and even becomes level briefly near Robber's Creek. That "leveling out" area is actually an extension of Burnt Flat. That "lesser slope" is where the disposed shale pieces stopped resulting in a talus slope of about 38 degrees down there. That has no relationship to the approximately 45 degrees at the railroad construction site. No workers were needed down there in 1865. At the bottom of the talus is where the tumbled automobiles and household appliances stopped tumbling in recent years. The talus consists of uncemented shale plates like "1 inch thick shoe soles," which as you know, makes walking up the slope very difficult, like climbing a sand pile. That talus material can not build on a slope greater than the 38 degrees, therefore, the talus exists 300 feet to 500 feet below the railroad, not immediately below the grade. It's too steep close below the railroad.

My discussion of shale at "West Cape Horn" is entirely different. Along that side hill the slope above the RR is about 40 degrees but the ravines below into Rice's Ravine are more like 30 degrees. That allowed the 35-38 degrees talus to build up fills without the need for retaining walls.

These numbers ... are ... in my book "A Study of Cape Horn Construction." Quoting the 38 degrees could lead [people] to jump from the wicker basket nonsense to an opposite extreme of believing that the gentle hillside is only 38 degrees at the edge of the road bed. Not true. ...

—Jack Duncan

Possible golden spike sighting

From: "Larry Mullaly"

A golden spike "sighting" was recently referred to me by a group in Ashland that is working to establish a small railroad museum in the city's railroad district. The question they ask is: was the Promontory golden spike later used at Ashland, Oregon?

The Ashland Tidings of December 23, 1887 described the ceremony that took place on December 17, 1887 in which Charles Crocker hammered home the final spike at Ashland joining tracks between Oregon and California. It reads:

"Mr. Crocker taking the golden spike and silver hammer which had been used before on a similar eventful occasion spoke as follows:

"I hold in my hand the last spike. (Cries of "Hold it up!") With this golden spike I proposed now to unite the rails between California and Oregon, and I hope it will be the means of cementing the friendship of the two states, and make them as one people. (Applause)."

The Oakland Tribune of December 19, 1887 carried the same account with an extra anecdote: "Speaking later at a celebration in Portland, Crocker produced the gold spike he had driven at Ashland and stated: 'It is dangerous to leave it where it was driven.'"

Questions: Is there any supporting evidence that the Promontory spike was used at Ashland? Were there other "golden spike" ceremonies?

—Larry Mullaly

Friday, February 03, 2006


From: "Kate & Chris"

I've just learned of the demise of the B&MLRR, with much sadness. ... We are very active in our own local historical society, civic life, and planning, and know what a blow this must have been to so many who had invested time and love into such a project. Please accept our condolescences.

By the way, that is some fabulous history you've written. I teach English and Humanities at our local community college, and am always thrilled to come upon such quality historical research combined with very strong writing skills. Your piece is a loving tribute.

Kate Wallace Johnson, Okanogan, Washington

Thursday, February 02, 2006

End of the Telegraph Era

[Annoucement of the] ... cancellation, as of January 27, 2006, of all telegraphic services by Western Union.

... American railroad involvement with the telegraph, as we know, began in 1844. Seemingly, at one time, virtually everywhere the railroad went, those telltale poles and wires followed it.

Evidently the earliest ancestor of Western Union dates from 1851, and it rose with the railroad industry. ... the railroad industry was already twenty-odd years old when this predecessor telegraphic company was born ...

—John Decker

[from the R&LHS Newsgroup.]


From: "J. Williams"

From the mid-1800s to the end of the century, old newspapers of the period report that locomotives periodically collided with wildlife and that occasionally, if the animal were large enough, the impact resulted in derailment.

My question is: Was the train's crew equipped to repair the track on site and get the train running themselves (provided neither the locomotive nor any of the cars were overturned) or did they always have to wait for a separate crew to arrive with heavy equipment and special skills?


Jon Williams
Wasatch Mountains, Utah

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Brass Pot

You may or may not be able to help me ... but awhile back, I came upon a brass looking pot with a handle on it that has a metal label (tag) that says on it, "Notice to Passengers. Do not empty this toilet out of train window. Central Pacific R.R." - quote un-quote! I recently went to a home improvement convention in Charleston, South Carolina where a well known TV antique appraiser was there. It was announced on TV that people could bring in items that they thought were antiques and he would appraise them. I went with hopes to find out what this "pot" is worth, however there were 50 people ahead of me and the line was not moving at all! Is there anyway you could help me or direct me to someone that could tell me what this pot may be worth ... roughly? ... Thanks!

—Tracy Atkinson

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